Saras... (Soma vessel)

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Tue Jun 9 03:37:26 UTC 1998

---Michael Witzel  wrote:
> However, whatever the object on the seals and in ivory may be,
> does not fit the Rgvedic evidence.
> Even if it were a Soma filter/sieve, this filter looks different in
> RV:  We need a sheep skin and a vessel into which Soma flows.
  The fact that the filter looks different in the RV does not, IMHO,
make a very sound argument. Consider, for example, the coffee drinking
habit in South India. At the same time you can see 4 different types
of the coffee filter viz., made of steel, gauze cloth, brass and being
part of the international trade network, paper.

> Whoever the Harappans/Indus/Ghaggar-Hakra-Nara people were and
> their religion was, the Soma filter in the RV and Mahadevan's do not

Refer above. There can be filters and filters. Mahadevan does have the
following to say: " A comparison of the Harappan filter symbol and the
Rgvedic expressions cited above indicates that the upper vessel
corresponds to sAnu, the 'top' of the Vedic filter device, and the
horizontal bands of lines drawn across the upper vessel represent
layers of some porous medium for straining (probably sheep wool as
described in the RV)." (ibid. p 18)
> Geldner says, RV translation vol. III (Harvard Oriental seies 35) p.
> (I translate from the German and summarize:)
> * watering the soma stems; repeated dipping, shaking, and watering
> * pressing the soma on a stone with the help of another stone
>   --  above a cow skin (sorry!!)
>   perhaps also by using 2 (wooden) pressing boards

Correct me if I'm wrong, I am however under the impression that the
pressing boards have not found any mention in the RV text itself
(barring "camvoh sutah"?)

>         (it sometimes seems that this pressed fluid runs down
directly into a
>         watery vessel) << I may add that Ahalya does all of this with
>         just her teeth... and Indra comes running >>

Refer in this context, IM's interpretation of
A yonim somah sukrtam niSHIdati (9.70.7) (ibid. p 19).

Also, refer the way the hymn dealing with Indra's birth has been
nAham ato nirayA durgahaitat tirazcatA pArzvAn nirgamAni (4.18.2).

Also, the path of the Soma thru the sieve:
ati zritI tirazcatA gavyA jigAty aNvyA (9.14.6)
> * the pressed juice is poured on a sieve made of ***sheep hair***.
>   and is cleansed of its filament remnants
>   on this sieve, Soma moves about in circles and flows down through
>   with 'spouts/beams/rays' (Strahl = dhAra) into the large Soma
>   vessel or vessels  below it.

Refer in this connection the three part dashed line grapheme in the
Indus sign list. (Mahadevan 1977: Signs 119, 120 and 121 & their
graphic variants called the "Flow" signs. Also refer Signs 336, 337,
335 called "Mortar" signs. as well as Signs 332, 333, 334 called
"Sieve" signs )
> * water is added in order to water down the Soma and make it
>   Water is either poured into the vesel or it flows down via the sieve
> * Soma is then drunk pure, or mixed with milk, or with sour milk
I do not think an identical preparation and drinking process is being
advanced by anyone here. Also, refer interpretation of dhAmanI pratIcI
(9.66.2), samIcIne dhiSHaNe (10.44.8), yamyA samyAti (9.68.3), sa
mAtarA vicaran (9.68.4) in support of the twin vessels concept
advanced by IM.

> There are no (100) holes drilled in the RV sieve. Rather the texts
> about Soma running like rivers to the samudra ... not into

Refer above.
> A pity that one item after the other doesn't work out...

I am not so sure. Evidently, IM's paper needs to be read in the

> One has to look for REAL survivals

I agree. But let us look at some very basic questions. Is Indra
attested outside IA? Is Soma attested outside IA-IIr? Is it
inconceivable that a pre-Aryan myth/ritual is adopted wholesale by the
Vedic speakers and grafted onto Indra, no doubt for authenticity etc?
Won't be the first time, would it?

I would like to close this long post with a quote: " Our sources of
information are scanty. The truth can often not be based on
incontestable facts but must be elicited from circumstantial evidence.
Yet, we can, ... piece together a fairly accurate picture of Vedic
material culture". (W. Rau, The Meaning of _Pur_ in Vedic Literature,
Munich 1973).

Thanking Lord Venkateswara for getting W. Rau to write this monograph
in English -;)))

Warm Regards.

Lakshmi Srinivas

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